US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said this week that the federal and state governments have gotten their hands on about $210 million to almost double the number of ethanol pumps throughout the country. Specifically, about 5,000 pumps at 1,400 stations will be deployed nationwide during the next few years. This is part of what's called the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP), which includes 21 states committed to expanding ethanol distribution. While biofuel does have its proponents, the announcement will probably raise the hackles of folks who've long opposed ethanol production.

The planned pumps will be able to deliver E15 and E85 (gas with a 15-percent and 85-percent ethanol content) as well as "intermediate combination blends." The expansion makes sense supply-wise, as corn ethanol production surged to more than 14 billion gallons last year from 1.6 million gallons in 2000.

Notably, Hawaii isn't one of the 21 states onboard the ethanol express. This past spring, Hawaii's lawmakers passed a bill cutting out the state's 10-percent ethanol mandate, with the argument being that the biofuel has to be shipped in.

Ethanol has been a source of national debate for years. Opponents decry what they say is the skyrocketing of food-crop prices from ethanol production, as well as damage to some engines. Proponents tout less dependence on foreign oil. Earlier this year, US senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) proposed further limiting the amount of corn-based ethanol allowable in the national fuel blend. Oregon is among the other states where lawmakers have proposed eliminating the ethanol-minimum mandate. Meantime, take a look at the USDA's press release below.
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USDA Announces $210 Million to be Invested in Renewable Energy Infrastructure through the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership

21 States and Private Partners Match Federal Funds to Expand Infrastructure and Increase Fuel Options for Consumers

KISSIMMEE, Fla., Oct. 28, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with 21 states through the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) to nearly double the number of fueling pumps nationwide that supply renewable fuels to American motorists. In May 2015, USDA announced the availability of $100 million in grants through the BIP, and that to apply states and private partners match the federal funding by a 1:1 ratio. USDA received applications requesting over $130 million, outpacing the $100 million that is available. With the matching commitments by state and private entities, the BIP is investing a total of $210 million to strengthen the rural economy.

"This major investment in renewable energy infrastructure will give Americans more options that not only will suit their pocketbooks, but also will reduce our country's environmental impact and bolster our rural economy," said Vilsack. "The Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership is one more example of how federal funds can be leveraged by state and private partners to deliver better and farther reaching outcomes for taxpayers. The volume and diverse geographic locations of partners willing to support this infrastructure demonstrate the demand across the country for lower cost, cleaner, American-made fuels. Consumers will begin to see more of these pumps in a matter of months."

The 21 states participating in the BIP include Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The amount awarded to each state is available at: www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/energy-programs/bip/index. The final awards being announced today are estimated to expand infrastructure by nearly 5,000 pumps at over 1,400 fueling stations.

A typical gas pump delivers fuel with 10 percent ethanol, which limits the amount of renewable energy that consumers can purchase. The new partnership will increase the number of pumps, storage and related infrastructure that offer higher blends of ethanol, such as E15, E85, and even intermediate combination blends.

USDA's Office of the Chief Economist just released a comprehensive report on ethanol. The report, titled U.S. Ethanol: An Examination of Policy, Production, Use, Distribution, and Market Interactions, brings clarity to the complex interaction of ethanol production with agricultural markets and government policies. The corn ethanol industry is the largest biofuel producer in the country, with production increasing from about 1.6 billion gallons in 2000 to just over 14 billion gallons in 2014, stimulating economic activity in rural communities. Visit www.usda.gov/oce/reports/energy/EthanolExamination102015.pdf to read the complete report.

BIP is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency. For more information, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/energy-programs/index.

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